Today, as we hit a new record high in daily COVID-19 cases, we also waited for an announcement from the Ford government of increasing measures that they were planning on taking to tackle the pandemic. But the announcement that we got this afternoon did not just miss the mark, it was a tone-deaf, egregious set of announcements that ignored the advice of public health experts across Ontario.
While we have begged and pleaded with this government to take a real stand and address the systemic drivers of this pandemic, they once again abdicated their responsibility to Ontarians. Instead of taking concrete steps like implementing paid sick days, they’ve decided to deflect the blame for the third wave of COVID-19 onto the people of Ontario.
Ontario should not be in this position – we should have a real leader at Queen’s Park.
The Ontario Science Table has told us what we need to do to save lives:
- Get more vaccines to hotspots
- Give all workers paid sick days
- Give workers paid time off to get their shot
- Put strong travel restrictions in place now
- Get non-essential workers out of workplaces, and close non-essential businesses
- And accept the federal government’s offer of help — we need the Red Cross, the military, and health care staff from any other jurisdiction
While we’re getting some small action on a couple of these points, we need serious public health measures right now. The reality here is that the stronger the lockdown measures we implement right now, the sooner we’ll be out of this nightmare.
In terms of the specifics of the announcement today, here’s most of what we know:
- Ontario is extending its stay-at-home-order another six weeks at minimum
- Police are being granted special powers for at least six weeks (more on this further down)
- Outdoor gatherings are prohibited (except for your household – or one extra person who lives alone)
- Non-Essential construction is shut down (residential construction has been deemed essential)
- Reduce capacity in retail settings to 25% (including grocery stores, pharmacies, indoor farmer’s markets, and other stores that primarily sell food)
- Weddings, funerals, and religious services can have a maximum of ten people indoors or outdoors.
Read the government’s full press release here.
I am going to take a moment here to go over some details about the extra powers that are being granted to police during this emergency order. Starting tonight at midnight, officers will now have the power to stop any person and ask for their home address and their reason for not being at their home. Anyone found to be in violation of the newly implemented regulations can be given a ticket of approximately $750.
Let’s be very real here, we are not going to police our way out of the pandemic, and the idea that this is the step that should be taken instead of implementing paid sick days is patently absurd. Further, this demonstrates once again the Ford government’s complete aversion to utilizing any sort of equity lens in their policy development. There is a well-documented history of the impact of measures like this, and the reality here is that this will likely impact Black, Indigenous, and people of colour the most (BIPOC).
This is just not a step that’s going to help, and frankly, is only serving as a distraction for the Ford government from their inaction on the rest of this file.
While things are bad right now, let’s remember that all is not lost.
We can still make a real difference here if we stand together as one and demand paid sick days from this government. I would encourage everyone to remain vocal on this issue and keep pressing forward, demanding action.
One way that you can help in the fight for paid sick days is by heeding a call, first launched by my colleague Joel Harden (MPP Ottawa Centre), who is calling for a return to the banging on pots and pans each night at 7 PM until we get the paid sick days that we need. It’s a simple step, but something that will hopefully continue to bring awareness to this important issue.
Add your name to demand paid sick days.
Hang in there everyone.